The Texas Rangers were one strike away from winning the 2011 MLB World Series before St. Louis mounted its historic comeback. Nolan Ryan was the face of the front office; Ron Washington the team’s respected manager; and Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, and Ian Kinsler anchored the potent lineup. With the resignation of Washington announced on September 5, the Rangers will close the 2014 season without any of the team’s key components from its most successful period. Texas’s plans to compete in the game’s best division now seem farfetched in light of the development.
Washington released a statement announcing his resignation before apologizing to the organization and fans, saying he was leaving because of “an off-the-field personal matter.” (According to NBC Sports, Rangers GM Jon Daniels said the resignation had nothing to do with Washington’s past troubles with narcotics.)
Washington, the Rangers’ skipper since 2007, posted a 664-611 record during a tenure that included American League pennants in 2010 and 2011 (the only two AL championships in Rangers history). Both times, the Rangers were unable to seal the deal and bring home the MLB championship Ryan and team brass coveted.
After Hamilton departed, Ryan followed with his resignation in October 2013 in what was seen as an internal management struggle. The Rangers headed in a new direction with the signing of Shin-Soo Choo and trade of Kinsler for Prince Fielder while Cruz left via free agency. Fielder’s season-ending injury and Shoo’s poor play left the team without two of its most potent offensive weapons, while injuries to Jurickson Profar, Matt Harrison, and Alexei Ogando basically assured the team would be in tatters for the entire year.
Washington acknowledged the poor performance of the $133 million team but said his decision did not hinge on that factor.
“This is in no way related to the disappointing performance of the team this season,” Washington said in his statement. “We were already discussing 2015 and looking forward to getting the Rangers back to postseason contention.”
Leading the team back to that point will take some heavy lifting from the new manager. Wash’s bench coach, Tim Bogar, is assuming the responsibilities for the remainder of the 2014 season, but the resignation clearly came suddenly for the Texas organization. Looking ahead, the Rangers have a legitimate ace in Yu Darvish but other key players with question marks attached following subpar or injury-riddled seasons.
Gone are the fiery leadership of Ryan and the affable, steady presence of Washington. With the multitude of issues surrounding the team at the close of 2014, the Rangers have no clear path back to contention. It’s Jon Daniels’s team now, but whatever direction he tries to head, Texas faces a mighty steep climb to get back to relevance in the AL West.